A compound derived from cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli may protect against harmful effects of radiation during cancer therapy, scientists have found.
Georgetown University Medical Center researchers found the compound, known as DIM, protected rats and mice from lethal doses of radiation. The study suggests that the compound, already shown to be safe for humans, may protect normal tissues during radiation
therapy for cancer treatment and prevent or mitigate sickness caused by radiation exposure.
"DIM has been studied as a cancer prevention agent for years, but this is the first indication that DIM can also act as a radiation protector," said the study's corresponding author, Eliot Rosen of Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.
For the study, the researchers irradiated rats with lethal doses of gamma ray radiation. The animals were then treated with a daily injection of DIM for two weeks, starting 10 minutes after the radiation exposure.
The result was stunning, said Rosen, a professor of oncology, biochemistry and cell & molecular biology, and radiation medicine. "All of the untreated rats died, but well over half of
the DIM-treated animals remained alive 30 days after the radiation exposure," Rosen said.
Rosen added that DIM also provided protection whether the first injection was administered 24 hours before or up to 24 hours after radiation exposure. "We also showed that DIM protects the survival of lethally irradiated mice," Rosen said.
In addition, irradiated mice treated with DIM had less reduction in red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets - side effects often seen in patients undergoing radiation treatment for cancer.
"DIM could protect normal tissues in patients receiving radiation therapy for cancer, but could also protect individuals from the lethal consequences of a nuclear disaster," Rosen said.
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)